Finding Medical Alert and Emergency Medical Information

One issue that keeps popping up in communities centered around chronic medical conditions is that of emergency medical identification. On the one hand, there are horror stories of First Responders missing or ignoring patient medical IDs, with consequences ranging from negligible to near-fatal; on the other, it must be admitted that many people who live with a chronic medical condition prefer an identifier that looks stylish, rather than the traditional "Medic Alert" style. These range from contemporary jewelry styles to highly artistic tattoos.

The links and information that follows are intended to give First Responders and Emergency Medical Personnel a better idea of the range of medical identifiers they might encounter in the field.

Medical Alert Jewelry

Not all medical alert jewelry will include a Star of Life or a caduceus.
Not all medical alert jewelry will be obvious.

Following are links to visual examples. Please study the sites at your leisure.

Medic Alert -- "Old Faithful". There are wrist, ankle, and dogtag versions. Expect to find an accompanying wallet card, or a phone number and serial number to get more detailed information.

TAH Handcrafted Jewelry -- The medical alert designs contain the star of life, but include designs that are a bit sleeker and more contemporary than the typical Medic Alert.

Lauren's Hope -- Popular among many women with Type 1 diabetes, these bracelets and necklaces look like contemporary jewelry except for the medical identifier plate, charm, or engraved icon. (Note that some of the styles put the icon at the very end of a cuff bracelet.)

Creative Medical ID gets even more creative than Lauren's Hope.

Sticky Jewelry -- Another brand with a number of nontraditional and contemporary styles. In addition to bracelets and dogtags, they sell a watch with a star-of-life face and a slide that is worn on the watchband. They also offer styles with USB flash drives on which individuals may store their medical information. (The USB styles include the option of using MedFlash software to store a personal health record.) Their site includes some basic educational information on medical alert jewelry.

Fiddledee IDs -- Styles range from silicone bands or leather to more traditional styles, to a dangling charm that can be worn anywhere -- not just on a necklace, bracelet, or keychain. The star of life may appear in any color, not just red. Some of the bracelets include engraved information, others include a written insert. Fiddledee IDs also offers "bag tags" for the bags or backpacks which may contain a patient's epi-pen, insulin and glucagon, asthma inhaler, or other condition-specific medications.

Road ID -- Aimed more at athletes than the chronically ill, there are wrist, ankle, running-shoe, and dogtag versions. The metal tag will provide basic identification, and if appropriate, either specific medical conditions or a phone number and web site (plus authorization codes) to get more detailed emergency information.

Also aimed at athletes, the XTREME Sports ID skips the Star of Life in favor of a caduceus and puts all the patient's emergency information on a Web site (information also available by telephone). They look like typical fun silicone bracelets, and come in a number of colors.

Hope Paige Medical ID Marketplace offers traditional medical-alert styles as well as contemporary styles in rope, leather, beads, or silicone, sliders for silicone bracelets, pill boxes, and phone-in styles with authorization, similar to those offered by Road ID.

IDONME -- Also aimed at the more general community, the bracelets, necklaces, and keychain fobs open up to find handwritten identification and information.

Cadex Watch products are designed to serve as medication reminders and ICE repositories. These products do not show a visible Star of Life. Watches may or may not carry a medical-alert slider accessory, and may or may not have a wallet card associated with them. Please go through their FAQ and video to familiarize yourself with their products. A page with familiarization links is also available. The parent company, e-pill, offers a number of other medical jewelry, watch-styled medication timers, and other accessories that might be found in a patient's home.

Other On-Body Medical Identification

Some people with chronic medical conditions prefer to make that information known through body art -- i.e., tattoos.

Google "diabetes tattoo" and you will find a whole page of images of tattoos used to indicate that a person has diabetes.

Tattoos used to indicate other medical conditions (as well as diabetes) can be found by Googling "medical tattoos", "medical ID tattoos", and so on.

Search any medical-condition community under "tattoo" to find both purely artistic and medical-identification tattoos.

Carried or Near-Body Medical Identification

Look for emergency-information wallet cards, ICE entries on cellphones, ICE applications on smartphones, USB drives marked with a Red Cross, Star of Life, or other medical symbol.

Some people may choose to use telephone wallpapers to indicate their medical conditions; others may have condition-specific applications (such as glucose logs or patient-community applications) on their iPods, iPads, or smartphones.

Some people with insulin-dependent diabetes have considered putting decals or stickers on their automobiles to alert police and First Responders, because sudden drops in their blood glucose levels can cause erratic driving or hostile and aggressive behavior.

In addition to tagged medical bags, patients may stow medical supplies in pocketbooks, tote bags, belt packs, backpacks, slings, and pockets. These supplies may include glucometers, inhalers, epi-pens, glucagon kits, and tagged or untagged pill bottles.

Advance Communication and Setting Expectations May Be Vital

As the ability to store more medical information, in more publicly-accessible locations, improves, many civilians are coming to expect that a First Responder team will automatically access that information before making field treatment decisions. First Responders are trained first to sustain life, then to handle any immediate medical crises, and may not have the luxuries of time and equipment to do this level of field research; additionally, many field medical technicians do not have the licensing or certification to make treatment decisions based on a patient's complete medical history. The disconnect between expectations and reality needs to be addressed by a combination of public education -- such as what information needs to be accessible to First Responders immediately -- and updating training and licensing to cover the medical emergencies (such as hypoglycemic seizures) related to increasingly-common chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes).

If you are a First Responder or a member of an e-patient community, please keep the dialog moving and let me know how I can improve this resource.